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California will lift mask mandate for vaccinated residents in indoor public places next week

COVID-19

Masks still will be required for unvaccinated residents indoors and for everyone in select settings such as hospitals, nursing homes and public transportation.

With the Omicron coronavirus surge rapidly receding, California will lift its universal mask mandate for indoor public places next week, state officials announced Feb. 7.

The lifting of the mandate will apply to counties without local mask orders of their own, such as San Diego, Orange and Riverside counties. Counties can still opt to retain local mask orders, as Los Angeles County will do.

Though the move doesn’t mean face coverings will be a thing of the past — they still will be required inside for unvaccinated residents and for everyone in select settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes and public transportation — relaxing the roughly 2-month-old order reflects the progress California has made in its battle against Omicron, even as officials say continued vigilance will be vital in keeping the state on the right track.

“Omicron has loosened its hold on California, vaccines for children under 5 are around the corner and access to COVID-19 treatments is improving,” said Dr. Tomás Aragón, the state’s health officer and director of public health. “With things moving in the right direction, we are making responsible modifications to COVID-19 prevention measures while also continuing to develop a longer-term action plan for the state.”

California’s existing indoor mask mandate will remain in place through Tuesday, Feb. 15, as previously scheduled, officials said. At that time, the state also will increase the attendance thresholds for “mega events” — which are subject to additional recommendations and requirements regarding coronavirus testing and vaccination verification — from 500 to 1,000 indoors and 5,000 to 10,000 outdoors.

In a sign of potentially more moves to come, state officials also announced that they are working to update school masking requirements. Currently, everyone on campuses serving kindergarten up to 12th grade must wear a mask indoors.

The state also is lifting the requirement that visitors to hospitals and nursing homes test negative for the coronavirus. ◆


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